Pompeo arrives in North Korea for meetings ahead of possible summit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Pyongyang for the latest round of meetings with top North Korean officials ahead of planned talks between President Trump and the country's leader Kim Jong Un, the State Department said Tuesday.

"The Secretary has arrived in DPRK at the invitation of the North Korean leadership," Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the department, said. "He is traveling to prepare for the historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. We have no further announcements."

Pompeo's trip to North Korea – his second in roughly a month – came as a relative surprise. Trump revealed that the top diplomat was en route to Pyongyang as he wrapped up his announcement on Tuesday that he would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. 

"He will be there very shortly," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We have our meetings set. The location is picked. The time and date – everything is picked, and we look forward to having a very great success."

Pompeo's latest trip to North Korea came as the U.S. prepares for a historic meeting between Trump and Kim – the first ever encounter between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader. 

Speaking to reporters aboard a government airplane bound for North Korea on Tuesday, Pompeo said the trip was intended to "put in place a framework for a successful summit" between Trump and Kim.

Pompeo, who was confirmed as secretary of State last month, met Kim in Pyongyang over Easter Weekend, while he was still CIA director. That trip – which he said Tuesday was meant to determine the seriousness of the North's offer to talk – was revealed only after he had returned.

It's not clear whether Pompeo will meet the North Korean leader on his current trip. Asked on Tuesday whether he planned to meet with Kim, Pompeo said that he did not know. 

"We’re going to meet with the most senior leaders," Pompeo said. "We’re prepared to meet with anyone who is speaking on behalf of the North Korean Government and can give us solid answers so we’re prepared."

The Trump administration is hoping to press North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. After it was announced that Trump planned to meet with Kim, the North Koreans pledged to cease nuclear weapon and missile tests, at least until the talks.

Questions also remain as to whether the North will release three detained Americans ahead of the talks. Rudolph Giuliani, one of Trump's lawyers, suggested last week that Pyongyang planned to let the prisoners go, though no formal announcement has been made and the White House and State Department have since backed away from those claims.

Pompeo said on Tuesday that he planned to broach the issue of the prisoners with the North Koreans during his visit.

"We have been asking for the release of these detainees for – this administration for 17 months," he said. "We’ll talk about it again today. I think it’d be a great gesture if they would choose to do so."

Source - The Hill

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